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By Steve Goldsworthy  
Contributing Editor

If you want to learn how to fly helicopters, then you want to learn from people that are passionate about them.  If there is one thing that is obvious at Elite Helicopters, it is their passion for what they do.

Simon Davis, owner
of Elite, explains it this way, “Learning to fly is supposed to be fun. I get to see the smiles on the students’ faces each day and I get to see the couples smiles as they return from their sunset tour over Los Angeles,” he explained. With students going from initial instruction all the way thru CFII (Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument), and a 100% pass rate, Elite Helicopters has built a reputation as a premiere flight training school.

Simon started Elite helicopters about four years ago just after finishing his FAA certificate. Originally licensed in Canada, he was an active snowboarder, and flying in a helicopter was just the usual way to get to the top of a mountain. One day, Simon got to sit left seat on a trip and his passion for helicopters was ignited.

2008 was not the best year to start a helicopter business. Silver State had just collapsed, and the economy was on a downhill that any snowboarder would appreciate. But still, Simon had a desire to build a business, so he went out and purchased a brand new Robinson R44 Raven II. “If we get the right people on board it should succeed,” was his thinking. So his first employee was Michael Everhart (CFII/Part 135 charter pilot) and soon their tour business was born. Mike was committed to giving the kind of service above and beyond what customers expected, and in 2010 they were given the Travel Channel’s “Best Helicopter Tour Operator” Award.

But Mike and Simon wanted to do more than just tours, so an R22 Beta II was added for training. One month their R22 flew 210 hours, quite an accomplishment juggling that kind of schedule between students, instructors and scheduled maintenance. Simon cannot say enough about his mechanic, Casey Sanders, and the importance given to maintenance. “I believe Casey to be the most reliable and meticulous mechanic there is,” he said.

After that month, it was apparent they needed another helicopter, so the second R22BII was added to the fleet. Obviously they also needed another CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) as well, and Alex Kriewall (now Chief Flight Instructor) joined the team.

Sitting in a room with Alex, Mike and Simon I had to ask what is so different about Elite than other flight schools? Alex spoke up about their one-on-one ground school. “We never had a structured ground school where I learned to fly,” Alex said. Mike speaks about their commitment to help each student achieve their goals, whether that is initial training, instrument or CFI training. I know a few things about Mike and his abilities as a CFII since his name is scattered throughout my own personal logbook.

But the best accolades come from the students themselves. They come from all over the world, from both Europe and Australia. One student with extensive military experience talks about Alex. “His technique is very good.  He is very thorough and methodical, (so) I am continuing to get my instrument and commercial add-on with them,” the student explained.
 
So what’s next for Elite? For Part 133 training, they work with Blackjack Helicopters out of Van Nuys and have put together a 10-hour introduction to vertical reference work flying the R44. Taught by a 9,000-hour pilot, this course gives students a different perspective by requiring them to fly the load, and fly vertically. Not the easiest thing for many of us to learn.

For those that want an introduction to turbine helicopters, Elite utilizes a Bell 206B3 and Mike teaches you the finer points of flying this well-known platform.

Bottom line, if you are looking for somewhere to learn how to fly, or looking to advance your flying career, you may want to check out Elite Helicopters of Van Nuys, California first. “I love who I work with, I love flying, I love the camaraderie around the shop; sometimes I don’t want to leave the office or hangar, I just love to be out at the airport with all the others who love what I love – helicopters,” Simon commented.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

 

Posted in: Company Profiles

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